It’s fair to say that Subaru has been behind the 8 ball when it comes to electrified offerings. Sure, they have the Forester Hybrid and the XV Hybrid, however, they’re not full EVs but are mild hybrids.

Subaru New Zealand aims to change this with the 2023 launch of the Solterra, a full battery electric vehicle (BEV) that they co-developed with Toyota (started in September 2019). Today, however, they wouldn’t be launching their new EV. We won’t see actual cars for sale until around April next year, so at the moment this was a reveal of the car, along with light details.

DriveLife headed to Tantalus Estate on Waiheke Island to get as much detail as we could on the all-new Subaru EV.

Wally Dumper – Subaru NZ Managing Director

First up, as always, was some background of the state of the nation for Subaru both in New Zealand and globally.

2023 will see Subaru celebrating 50 years of being in New Zealand. That’s a huge achievement, and one that Wally is obviously proud of. He goes on to say that the whole automotive industry has basically had EVs forced on it, “which is not a bad thing” – but that comes with some challenges.

Globally, Subaru will increase the ratios of hybrids and EVs for sale, and diminish Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) production over time. In the not too distant future, there will be a dedicated EV line (estimated in 2027), and in the mid-2020s, we will see a new generation “e-Boxer Strong Hybrid”. There were no details given for this new model other than the name, and that it’s coming.

By 2030, Subaru intends to increase the ratio of EVs and hybrids sales to at least 40% of gross global sales, and in 2050, Subaru Corporation plans to reduce CO2 emissions by 90% compared to 2010 levels.

To back this up, the company is committing 250b Yen (NZ$3.2b) for electrification design and production.

2023 Subaru Solterra – “Hey electric, come with us”

The model name derives from the Latin words for the sun and earth and is Subaru’s first-ever all-wheel-drive EV. For the New Zealand market, only AWD will be available. In fact, there aren’t many details yet regarding models or pricing, but Wally strongly suggests that there will be at least two models, and one of them should be under the $80K cap for the Clean Car Programme.

He can confirm standard features like a full underbody tray, and the huge cladding over all the wheel arches. These arches certainly are bold and enormous but do fit the car’s intended lifestyle use. Still on the design, there is a solid grille up front, short overhangs front and rear, and the car has 210mm of ground clearance, something that buyers would expect from a Subaru.

The actual size of the Solterra is in between the Forester and the Outback, and it’s only 18cm shorter than the Outback, 1.5cm narrower, and only 2cm lower.

2023 Subaru Solterra – Interior

A high-rise dashboard sits pride of place above the steering wheel, giving the driver a sort of heads-up display using the instruments. The centre screen is a touch unit, and all New Zealand models will have the 12.3” centre screen. The screen itself is not integrated so sits proud of the dashboard.

Qi wireless phone charging will be standard, along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and Harmon Kardon audio.

2023 Subaru Solterra – Drivetrain

The batteries for the Solterra are under the floor and form part of the car’s structure. This means a low centre of gravity. As mentioned, all NZ models will be AWD, and will include Subaru’s X Mode, for switching the car’s settings to manage things like ice, or mud. The Solterra will also have a new Grip Control function, that according to Subaru, enables the Solterra to run at a constant speed, while stabilising the vehicle, when the going gets tough.

Built on the Subaru Global Platform, the 2020Kg Solterra monitors the drive and braking to each wheel continuously and adjusts these to suit the conditions and available grip.

The drive battery has a capacity of 71.4kWh, and is claimed to be able to retain 90% efficiency after 10 years of life. The battery will carry an 8-year, 160,000Km warranty. Drive is by two 80kW electric motors, one front and one at the rear, for a total of 160kW of power. There’s a ‘one pedal driving’ button on the dash, and range is estimated at 460Km.

Subaru will supply each car with a 230-volt charger that can be plugged into a standard house power point, and will look at options on being able to supply a wall charger for those home users that want one. At this early stage there is no indication of any costs for this.

For those on the run and wanting to utilise a fast charger away from home, the Solterra can take up to 150kW of fast (DC) charging.

2023 Subaru Solterra – Safety

Subaru Solterras will have the Safety Sense pack of features, which include things like pre-collision avoidance, lane tracing, adaptive cruise control, and adaptive high beams. There’s also a 360-degree camera, and a “safety exit alert” to warn you if a car is coming and someone is opening a door.

2023 Subaru Solterra – Delivery Dates

Subaru New Zealand hopes the car will be on sale by April 2023, with at least two variants. Pre-orders should open up in January 2023.

2023 Subaru Solterra – Reveal

The covers were pulled from the single, left-hand-drive Solterra that’s in New Zealand. The solid grille certainly catches your eye. IThe Solterra doesn’t look like an XV or Outback, but it still has some Subaru styling touches to it.

It looks bigger than I had expected and those wheel arch guards send a statement that this car is intended for some off-road use. The sills are also completely covered in plastic to help protect the car from scrapes.

Stepping into the back seat, there’s a lot of rear legroom, even when the front seat is right back. That’s just one of the benefits of having a car designed from the ground up as an EV. Headroom isn’t as good as legroom, but still plenty for me. The Solterra at the reveal had heated rear seats as well, but I expect they would only be fitted to the top-spec New Zealand model.

In the driver’s seat, it’s all very space-age and modern, with a high dashboard and a low steering wheel. The 12.3” centre screen really grabs your eye, and the resolution seems excellent. The Solterra doesn’t have a glovebox, instead relying on a huge centre console cubby to store things like a woman’s handbag.

The boot seems large although the actual capacity hasn’t been stated yet. Under the floors is a small storage area for the 230-volt charger.

All in all, this seems like a great step for Subaru. It gets them onto the EV ladder, and we look forward to attending the release of the car and actually driving it. All signs point to a Subaru that holds true to its philosophy of something a little different.

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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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